Connecticut Charter School Industry spends another half a million dollars on lobbying elected officials

3 Comments

According to the latest lobbying reports filed with the Connecticut Ethics Commission, the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies spent another $555,000 during this year’s legislative session in their ongoing effort to support Governor Malloy and persuade Connecticut legislators to divert even more public money to the privately owned and operated charter schools in the state.

While Governor Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly instituted the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools, Malloy and the Democrat’s new budget actually increased the amount of scarce public funds going to the charter schools.

At the same time, the charter school front groups were working with Malloy to fight off efforts to fix Connecticut’s flawed teacher evaluation program.

Malloy and the charter schools are intent on keeping the scores that student receive on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC standardized tests as a prominent factor in determining teacher quality, despite the fact that every major academic study has revealed that individual teachers have an extremely small impact on how individual students do on standardized tests.

Rather than develop a teacher evaluation system based on how well that educator is actually doing, Malloy and the education reformers want to stick with a faulty system that will unfairly judge teachers on factors beyond their control.

Meanwhile, as Wait, What reported earlier this year, the charter school industry and their corporate funded front groups have spent in excess of $9 million on lobbying since Governor Malloy took office in 2011.  See: Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

The latest ethics reports indicate that, once again, the New York based Families for Excellent Schools continue to spend the most on lobbying in Connecticut, having reported an additional $300,000 in lobbying expenditures since the beginning of this year’s legislative session.  The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) took the 2nd and 3rd spots on the charter school lobbying chart.

While Families for Excellent Schools and the entire charter school industry continue to expand their lobbying efforts, Neil Vigdor, of the Hearst Media Group, reports that Families for Excellent Schools and other so-called education reformers have set up another Political Action Committee that they will be using to reward and punish candidates who support or oppose their agenda.

In Charter schools step up political action Vigdor reports;

The charter school movement — backstopped by a billionaire club that includes Michael Bloomberg, Paul Tudor Jones and Ray Dalio — wants to put its stamp on the Legislature in Connecticut.

CT Forward, a newly launched nonprofit advocacy group, will survey House and Senate candidates across the state on their support for public charter schools. The litmus test will determine which candidates receive financial and grassroots support from the group’s dues-paying members, who will be made up heavily of parents.

Families for Excellent Schools, which has wrangled with Bridgeport administrators over education reform, is behind the election-year initiative.

[…]

For giants of the hedge fund industry such as Jones and Dalio, both Greenwich residents, charter schools have become a favorite cause. Each has contributed to Families for Excellent Schools, which reported $17.6 million in contributions and grants for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, to the IRS. [FES Director] Kittredge’s compensation was $222,297 for that time period, more than Connecticut’s state education commissioner and New York City’s schools chancellor.

A spokesman for Jones declined to comment. Multiple requests for comment were left for Dalio, whose Westport hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, is the largest in the world. Bloomberg has not contributed directly to FES, but has been strongly linked to the charter school movement.

Lobbying legislators, handing out campaign cash…it is all part of the effort to privatize public education in Connecticut and across the country.

BREAKING NEWS – Trump goes with anti-public education running mate

5 Comments

As expected, the most unqualified candidate to be President of the United States has chosen a running mate who is equally unprepared, ill-equipped and incapable of representing the people of the nation.

Not only is Indiana Governor Mike Pence the most anti-choice governor in the country, he is nothing short of a puppet for the charter school industry and its corporate education reform allies.

As Indiana’s governor, Pence has driven an anti-teacher, anti-public education political and legislative agenda that has included dramatically expanding charter schools and diverting scarce public funds to voucher programs that, in turn, have allowed private individuals to use taxpayer money to send their children to religious schools.

As a gubernatorial candidate Pence has used his anti-public education agenda to raise massive amounts of money from wealthy corporate education reform donors both in and out of his state.  Many of the most prominent anti-public school big donors appear on Pence’s fundraising reports.

As the Indianapolis Star and other Indiana based newspapers and blogs have reported, Pence has been collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school owners and voucher supporters.

Pence’s education donors include;

  • Fred Klipsch, founder and chairman of Hoosiers for Quality Education, “a leading pro-voucher organization. Klipsch boasted in 2012 that he had put together the campaign funding to overcome teacher opposition and push through legislative approval of the Mitch Daniels-Tony Bennett education agenda, including vouchers and charter schools.”
  • John D. Bryan, founder and director of Challenge Foundation, “which operators several charter schools, including the Indianapolis Academy of Excellence. He has given nearly $600,000 to Republican campaigns in Indiana, including $145,000 to Pence’s campaigns for governor.
  • Roger Hertog, of Success Academy infamy.  Hertog, a major right-wing donor has also given pro-charter school governor Andrew Cuomo at least $30,000.
  • Robert L. Luddy,  “who runs a group of private schools and who provided much of the campaign financing for school board candidates who overturned a model school desegregation program in Wake County, N.C., schools.

In July 2012, the education blog, In School Matters led with an article entitled, More on the money behind the Indiana school-voucher law.  Pro-public education blogger Steve Hinnefeld wrote;

Hoosiers for Economic Growth chairman Fred Klipsch explained recently how his organization and several affiliated groups spent $4.4 million to push through the education policies that Indiana adopted in 2011, including a huge voucher program, expansion of charter schools and anti-union measures.

Klipsch spoke in May at a national policy summit in Jersey City, N.J., hosted by the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice, organizations that promote taxpayer funding of private schools.

You can download a PowerPoint of Klipsch’s presentation from the website of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options. You can also watch a video of Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett receiving the John T. Walton Champion of School Choice Award at the summit.

Hoosiers for Economic Growth spent almost $1.3 million during Indiana’s 2010 election cycle, most of it targeted to producing a Republican majority in the Indiana House. Organizations like School Choice Indiana and Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Aiming Higher also contributed to the effort, according to Klipsch’s presentation.

The goal was to overcome what Klipsch referred to as “the problem” – the Indiana State Teachers Association, which his presentation calls “the most powerful political force at the Statehouse and at the ballot box” and “the biggest spender by far” in Indiana politics.

The ISTA’s political action committee, the Indiana PAC for Education or I-PACE, spent $792,683 in 2010, according to campaign finance reports.

Hoosiers for Economic Growth gets much of its money from the Indiana PAC of American Federation for Children, a pro-voucher outfit headed by Michigan Republican activist Betsy DeVos. The PAC’s money comes from Philadelphia and New York hedge-fund managers and Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton.

More about Pence in the coming days

Drive up education degree is an insult to every student, parent, teacher and taxpayer

4 Comments

In her latest commentary piece, Connecticut education advocate Wendy Lecker explains that latest fade from the corporate education reform industry.  In, A blind acceptance of the robot teacher, Lecker takes on the charter school industry advocates who claim that teachers don’t need all those education and child development courses.  All they need, they say, is a quick, fly-by-night crash course on how to make children sit and succeed at taking standardized tests scores.

Wendy Lecker writes;

Connecticut seems to accept a constricted vision of education for its neediest children that is never imposed on more affluent districts. The most recent example of this disparity is the recent partnership between the New Haven Public Schools and an outfit called Relay Graduate School of Education, to provide alternative certification for would-be teachers.

Relay was founded by representatives of three charter school chains, Achievement First, KIPP and Uncommon Schools — chains with a troubling record of suspensions, harsh discipline and attrition. It was founded to train charter school teachers. Relay employs not one professor of education.

The Relay vision of teaching is narrow. Its primary goal is to train teachers to raise test scores. Consequently, Relay focuses on giving its trainees a prepackaged set of “skills” that focus mainly on classroom management and getting students to do what teachers want. The contrast between Relay’s methods and goals and those of existing Connecticut schools of education is stark.

For example, UConn’s teacher education program strives to “establish a safe and positive learning environment” and “promote democratic participation and community. UConn’s core practice principles focus on helping prospective teachers learn to use their professional judgment, and to help students develop into independent thinkers. UConn’s principles help teachers develop “strategies, activities and approaches that are responsive to cultural, linguistic, ability and other student differences,” “plan learning opportunities that teach content through inquiry” and “use knowledge of students as individuals and members of cultural and social groups to inform instruction.” The aim is to help teachers meet students where they are and develop each student’s capabilities.

Relay employs the principles of one of its “star” faculty, Uncommon Schools’ Doug Lemov. Those principles focus on control and compliance. For instance, Lemov instructs trainees that “(a) sequence that begins with a student unwilling or unable to answer a question ends with that student giving the right answer as often as possible even if they only repeat it.” Even if they only repeat it!

The principles also instruct trainees to “set and defend a high standard of correctness in your classroom” and “control the physical environment to support the specific lesson goal for the day.” Relay’s prescriptive, robotic methods churn out teachers focused on getting students not to think for themselves, but to regurgitate the one “correct” answer.

Relay falsely claims its methods are proven. As University of Washington Professor Kenneth Zeichner has found, there is no peer-reviewed evidence demonstrating the success of Relay Graduate School of Education. In fact, even education reformers have called into question Relay’s methods. Katherine Porter Magee, of the conservative Fordham Institute, criticized one Relay lesson video, noting it “included low-level questions and inadequate wait time, and was generally rushed and superficial.”

Connecticut has several university-based schools of education. Three — Albertus Magnus, Southern Connecticut and Quinnipiac — are in the New Haven area. Yet New Haven partnered with Relay. Why do New Haven’s children, the majority of whom are poor children of color, need teachers trained only to control them, when Connecticut’s schools of education focus on developing children based on their individual needs and strengths?

This partnership must be seen in the larger context of Connecticut’s abandonment of its previous deep commitment to robust teacher training. Connecticut used to be a national model for teacher education. Its BEST program was state-funded and developed by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) over 15 years, in conjunction with developing the state’s academic standards. CSDE ensured that a robust teacher induction system was designed, implemented, researched and evaluated. The state raised teacher salaries; required, funded and trained experienced teachers as mentors; developed licensing requirements and a staged licensing process; and required ongoing professional development.

Although the successful BEST program was lauded nationwide, Connecticut abandoned BEST, because it was seen as too costly. Apparently, Connecticut’s leaders viewed providing tax subsidies to insurance companies and hedge funds as more worthwhile than investing in Connecticut’s children. Connecticut has also in recent years cut state programs for alternative teacher certification. Thus, the burden and cost of certification increasingly falls to school districts.

At the same time, Connecticut has imposed more mandates on university-based teacher education programs. It is almost as if the state wants to drive existing schools with a proven track record into the ground and replace them with cheap, fly-by-night operations.

Connecticut children deserve teachers who can help them reach their potential, not parrot from canned scripts. They deserve better than teachers trained in five-week Teach for America training programs or quick certification factories such as Relay.

 You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s column at : http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-blind-acceptance-of-the-robot-8348106.php

 

Can Jennifer come out and play?  How about Jeffrey?

3 Comments

Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) gets paid a lot of money to be the spokesperson for the Connecticut charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies.

Doing that job earned her $224,000 in salary and benefits in 2014. Her board of corporate elite even gave her a $25,000 bonus that year, all so that she could continue to push their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher political agenda.

However, while Jennifer Alexander spends plenty of time inside the Capitol lobbying legislators and working with the Malloy administration, she has refused, to date, to accept an offer to debate the real problems and issues facing Connecticut’s public school children, parents, teachers and schools.

Not that long ago, UConn actually invited me to participate in a panel discussion about the very issues facing Connecticut’s public schools.  Other participants were to include both Jennifer Alexander and Jeffrey Villar, the highly paid executive of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform, another charter school industry front group.

However, within 48 hours of the invitation being sent, UConn suddenly cancelled the panel.  And when it was rescheduled months later, no invitation to me was forthcoming.

Meanwhile, thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly, while Connecticut’s public schools are being hit with the deepest cuts in state history, Malloy and his administration are shoveling even more scarce taxpayer dollars to privately owned and operated charter schools that have consistently refused to educate their fair share of children who require special education services or those who need extra help learning the English language.  These charter schools even allow a significant number of uncertified teachers and staff to “educate” the children they claim to serve.

One would think that being paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year would give Jennifer Alexander the courage and conviction, or at least the obligation, to actually come out and debate the issues.

But in Malloy’s Connecticut, honesty and transparency are useless terms and those paid to defend his positions choose to remain hidden inside their golden temples.

Thus, I renew my request and offer.

Ms. Alexander, we’re waiting with baited breath.  Come out and debate.

Or perhaps Mr. Villar would be willing to defend the reformers’ indefensible positions.

How about it Jen or Jeffrey?

This is an important election year, why not accept my challenge and debate the issues so that Connecticut’s voters have the information they need to make informed decisions.

The Bevy of Billionaires undermining public education

10 Comments

The colossal and disastrous effort to privatize public education in the United States is alive and well thanks to a plethora of billionaires who, although they’d never send their own children to a public school, have decided that individually and collectively, they know what is best for the nation’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

From New York City to Los Angeles and Washington State to Florida, the “billionaire boys club,” as Diane Ravitch, the country’s leading public education advocate, has dubbed them, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars via campaign contributions, Dark Money expenditures and their personal foundations to “fix” what they claim are the problems plaguing the country’s public schools.

These neo-gilded age philanthropists claim that the solution is for parents, teachers and education advocates to step aside so that the billionaires and their groupies can transform public education by creating privately owned and operated – but taxpayer funded – charter schools.

In addition, they pontificate that students learn best when schools are mandated to use the ill-conceived Common Core standards so classrooms become little more than Common Core testing factories and the teaching profession is opened up to those who haven’t been burdened by lengthy college based education programs designed to provide  educators with the comprehensive skill sets necessary to work with and teach the broad range of children who attend the country’s public schools.

The billionaire’s proclaim that the solution to creating successful schools is really rather simple.

They say that public schools run best when they are run like a business…

Cut through their rhetoric and the billionaires want us to believe that by introducing competition and the concept of “profit” they can turnaround any school, no matter the challenges it or its students may face….

Privatization, they argue, will lead to greater efficiencies while opening up the public purse to those who have products that they seek to sell to our children and our public schools.

And, the billionaires would have us believe, that the best teachers are those who get five weeks of training via a high-profile Teach for America program and are then thrown into the classroom where they, like all teachers, should be evaluated based on how well their students do on those unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core standardized tests.

Like the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about more than 55 years ago, the billionaires, the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies want us to believe that providing children with the skills and knowledge to succeed and prosper in the 21st Century is nothing more than an opportunity to “wage war” and make money, all at the same time.

And who are these billionaires?

They are the self-professed greatest names in the United States.

The following is a partial and growing list of the super elite who deem to dabble in remaking our public schools.

Or as they would put it, blessed are the wealthy for they shall reform our public schools, with or without our consent.

First Name Last Name Net Worth Relationship with Corporate Education Reform and Charter School Industry (Partial list) How They got their billions
John Arnold $2.5 B Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now, EdVoice, New Teacher Project Hedge Fund Owner – Centaurus Advisors LLC
Louis Bacon $1.9 B StudentsFirst, Cuomo Donor, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Moore Capital Management
Steve Ballmer $23.5 B Stand for Children, Major Dark Money Donor Microsoft CEO
William Berkley $1.1 B Achievement First, Inc. WR Berkley Corporation Founder Chairman CEO – insurance sports and entertainment companies
Michael Bloomberg $40 B Leadership for Educational Equity, Teach for America, Stand for Children, New Leaders for New Schools, California Charter School Advocates, Major Dark Money Donor Co-founder, Bloomberg LP Owner, former Mayor of New York City
Eli Broad $7.3 B The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, EDVoice, California Charter School, Cuomo Donor, Malloy Donor, Major Dark Money Donor Sun Life Insurance Company of America – (Retired)
Steve Cohen $12.7 B Steve and Alexandra Cohn Foundation, Harlem Children’s Zone, Achievement First, NE Charter School Network, Teach for America Hedge Fund Owner – SAC Capital Advisors
Ray Dalio $15.6 B Dalio Foundation, Teach for America, Hedge Fund Owner – Bridgewater Associates Owner Founder – hedge
Elizabeth DeVos $4.7 B DeVos Family Foundation, Alliance for School Choice, American Federation for Children, Stand for Children, All Children Matter, Children’s Scholarship Fund, Major Dark Money Donor Amway Owner Co-Founder – Orlando Magic NBA Team Owner
John Doerr $4.1 B New Schools Venture Fund, EdVoice, Venture Capitalist – Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byera
Stanley Druckenmiller $4.4 B Children’s Scholarship Fund, Hedge Fund Owner – Duquesne Capital – Retired
David Einhorn $1.4 B Democrats for Education Reform, Hedge Fund Owner – Greenlight Capital
Doris Fisher $2.6 B Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, KIPP Foundation, Ed Voice, Gap Inc. Co-Founder
John Fisher $2.2 B Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, KIPP Foundation, Charter School Growth Fund, Silicon Valley Growth Fund, Ed Voice, Gap Inc. Heir Owner – Oakland Athletics Owner
Bill Gates $75 B Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Microsoft Chairman
Reed Hastings $1.2 B KIPP Foundation, Ed Voice, California Charter School Association, Major Funder Netflix Co-Founder Facebook Board Member
H Wayne Huizenga $2.6 B National Heritage Academies, Inc. (NHA) for-profit charter school management organization, Stand for Children Investor, Waste Management- Blockbuster Video – AutoNation – Swisher Hygiene
Ray Lee Hunt $5.3 B Texans for Education Reform, Hunt Oil Co-Owner Heir – son of founder H L Hunt – oil
Carl Icahn $17 B Icahn Charter Schools, StudentsFirst, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Icahn Enterprises Owner
Charles Johnson $4.6 B Charles and Ann Johnson Foundation, Alliance for School Choice, American Education Reform Council Chairman, Franklin Resources – Owner of San Francisco Giants
Paul Tudor Jones III 4.7 B Families for Excellent Schools, StudentsFirst, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, Cuomo Donor Hedge Fund Owner – Tudor Investment Corporation
Bruce Karsh $1.9 B KIPP Foundation, Teach for America Hedge Fund Owner – Oaktree Capital Management
Seth Klarman $1.3 B Families of Excellent Schools, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Baupost Group Investments
Charles Koch $39.6 B American for Prosperity, American Encore,  Major Dark Money Donor Koch Industries
David Koch $39.6 B American for Prosperity, American Encore, ,  Major Dark Money Donor Koch Industries
Bruce Kovner $5.3 B Thomas T Fordham Institute (former), Bronx Preparatory Charter School, Hedge Fund Owner – Caxton Associates
Kenneth Langone $2.7 B Families for Excellent Schools, StudentsFirst, Harlem Children’s Zone, Republicans for Cuomo Home Depot Co-Founder
Daniel Loeb $2.6 B Success Academy, Families for Excellent Schools, StudentsFirst, Cuomo Donor, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Third Point LLC
Stephen Mandel Jr $2.5 B Teach for America, Excel Bridgeport, Hedge Fund Owner – Lone Pine Capital
Robert McNair $3.3 B Texans for Education Reform, Chairman, McNair Group
Rupert Murdoch $10.6 B Amplify News Corporation Founder Chairman, CEO
Laurene Powell Jobs $16.7 B NewSchools Venture Fund, Teach for America, Apple-Pixar Owner
Thomas (Margot) Pritzker $2.7 B University of Chicago Charter School, Pritzker Organization Chairman CEO – Hyatt Hotels Corp Executive Chairman
Penny Pritzker $2.3 B Noble Charter Schools, Hyatt Hotels Heir –
Larry Robbins $2 B KIPP New York, Relay Graduate School of Education, Teach for America New York, Harlem Village Academies, Harlem Children’s Zone Hedge Fund Owner -Glenview Capital Management
Julian Robertson Jr $3.6 B Robertson Foundation, Pave Charter Schools, Families for Excellent Schools, iMentor, Teach for America, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Tiger Management Corporation
Stacy Schusterman $3.4 B Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Charter School Growth Fund, Ed Voice, Stand for Children, Teach for America Samson Investment Company (oil & gas)
Charles Schwab $5.4 B Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Teach for America, Aspire, KIPP Foundation, Charles Schwab Corp Founder
Paul Singer $2.2 B Paul Singer Family Foundation, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Elliott Management Corporation Founder Owner – distressed debt acquisitions
Christy Walton $5.2 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir-Widow of John-who was son Of Founder Sam Walton
Jim Walton $33.6 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir – Youngest Son Of Founder Sam Walton
Alice Walton $32.3 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir – Daughter of Founder Sam Walton
Carrie Walton Penner (S Robson) Walton $31.9 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir – Son Of Founder Sam Walton
Sam Zell $4.8 B Zell Family Foundation, Teach for America Equity Group Investments Chairman -real estate – private equity
Mark Zuckerberg $44.6 B Zuckerberg Foundation, Newark Project Facebook Chairman CEO

 

 

LMAO – Charter school front group hires “Tactics Manager”

Comments Off on LMAO – Charter school front group hires “Tactics Manager”

Families for Excellent Schools, the corporate funded, New York based charter school lobby group, with chapters in Connecticut and Massachusetts, is looking for a manager of tactics.

A Manager of Tactics?

Not just any Manager of Tactics.  They are hiring a National Director of Tactics…

Perhaps they find their calling in the words of Sun Tzu, who wrote about tactics in his epic entitled, The Art of War;

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” –  Sun TzuThe Art of War

So it is that the billionaire funded Families for Excellent Schools has posted a job listing searching for a National Manager of Tactics.

What an incredible and disturbing commentary about the charter school industry and its corporate education reform allies.

According to the FES job posting, the pro-charter schools, anti-public education, anti-teacher lobby group’s job posting states;

As National Manager of Tactics, you will support the Tactics team in strengthening best practices and logistics around campaign tactics, such as rallies, press conferences, and other field tactics in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. Your primary responsibilities will be producing internal reports on campaign tactics and organizing resources, such as event assets and project tools. You will report to and work closely with the Director of Tactics and work closely with the Managing Director of Tactics as well as collaborate with the rest of the organization on executing its mission.

So there you go…

“As National Manager of Tactics, you will support the Tactics team in strengthening best practices and logistics around campaign tactics…”

And to do that, you will called upon to “produce internal reports on campaign tactics.”

And sadly, these people are for real and their job post is no joke.

They love corporate and military terms, interspersed with as much hyperbole as possible.

Their “non-profit” lobbying groups are headed by people with titles of CEO and make in excess of $150,000, along with plenty of COO and CFOs added for good measure.

And now they are hiring for titles like Director of Tactics, Managing Director of Tactics and other positions within “tactical” teams.

And this is how they intend to provide the nation’s children with the comprehensive education they will need to succeed in the 21st Century?

Me thinks they have watched too many made-for-TV movies about Seal Team Six.

God Help Us.

Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

11 Comments

Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy has been able to count on the consistent and lucrative support of the charter school industry and their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher corporate education reform allies.

In addition to being one of Malloy’s largest sources of campaign cash during his 2014 re-election campaign, the owners and operators of Connecticut’s charter schools, along with the corporate elite who support Malloy’s “education reform” initiatives have dumped more than $9 million into the lobbying effort to support Malloy’s agenda to undermine public education in Connecticut.

This lobbing frenzy makes the corporate education reform effort the most expensive lobbying campaign in Connecticut history.

Funneling money through a variety of different organizations and front groups, the charter school advocates have been able “transform” public education in Connecticut by promoting Malloy’s plans to divert hundreds of millions of dollars in scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

While Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly are instituting unprecedented cuts to public schools, thanks to the  “reformers” lobbying effort, more than $110 million in public dollars will be handed over to charter schools this year alone.

In addition, these groups have spent their millions pushing the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, a program designed to label a vast number of Connecticut’s children, teachers and schools as failures.

The following chart highlights the Step Right Up, Buy Public Policy organizations that have lobbied on behalf of Malloy’s charter school and anti-public education agenda.

Organization Lobbying Expenses
A Better Connecticut (ConnCAN front group)  $2.3 million
ConnCAN  $1.9 million
Families for Excellent Schools  $1.8 million
GNEPSA (StudentsFirst/Michelle Rhee)  $891,000
CT Council for Education Reform  $349,000
Students for Education Reform  $16,000
Achievement First  $422,000
NE Charter School Network/Charter School Network  $132,000
Bronx Charter School $35,000
CT Business & Industry Assoc. (CBIA)  >$1.2 million
TOTAL $9 Million+

This past legislative session, these charter school and education reform entities spent in excess of $500,000 successfully persuading legislators to cut their own district’s public school funding, at the same time they were sending even more taxpayer money to Connecticut’s charter schools, despite the fact that these private institutions have traditionally refused to educate their fair share of students who need special education services, children who require help learning the English Language or those who have behavioral issues.

More taxpayer money for the private sector, less public funds for public schools.

Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly should be sent packing and replaced with people who will put our children ahead of political and private interests.

A void in oversight of charter schools (By Wendy Lecker)

11 Comments

Surprise!  Connecticut taxpayers are giving privately owned and operated charter schools more than $110 million a year, with little to no oversight.  Meanwhile, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic controlled state legislature are implementing the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  The budget cuts, along with the inadequate funding allocated for public schools mean Connecticut’s public school students will be getting less, while local property taxpayers will be charged even more.

In another MUST READ piece, public education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker reports on the void in oversight of Connecticut’s charter schools.

Wendy Lecker writes;

One would think that after the scandals involving Connecticut’s two large charter chains, Jumoke and Achievement First, Connecticut’s education officials would finally exert some meaningful oversight over Connecticut’s charter sector.

One would be wrong.

This week the Connecticut Mirror reported that Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell dismissed a complaint against Bridgeport Achievement First, for using uncertified teachers for 47 percent of its staff, in violation of Connecticut statute. Wentzell unilaterally decided that the law allowing complaints against public schools does not apply to charters; despite the fact that charters receive more than $100 million each year in public taxpayer dollars.

Wentzell disregarded the data showing Achievement First’s misdeeds, claiming the State Department of Education (SDE) will wait until the charter comes up for renewal. Wentzell apparently ignored the law allowing her to put a charter on probation “at any time.”

The laissez-faire attitude toward charter schools pervades this administration. At the June 1 State Board of Education meeting, where the board voted to grant waivers to six charters to increase their enrollment beyond the statutory cap, Mark Linabury, head of SDE’s Choice Bureau, stated that when it comes to charter oversight, “we operate in the dark” until the renewal process.

While SDE closes its eyes, the complaints against charters pile up. Last week, students at Achievement First’s Amistad High School in New Haven staged a mass walkout to protest racial insensitivity and harsh discipline. They might have also protested the abominable graduation rate which, counting attrition since ninth grade, was 53 percent in 2015 — well below New Haven’s.

Amistad is one of the schools granted an enrollment increase waiver on June 1; supposedly based on Amistad’s academic performance (a 53-percent graduation rate?). Recommending the increase, SDE declared that Amistad draws 100 percent of its students from New Haven. However, the New Haven Independent, in reporting the walkout story, noted “(a)t 10:20, students who live in Bridgeport went inside after they were told they would not be allowed to board buses home if they didn’t.” Indeed, students told reporter Paul Bass that half of Amistad students come from Bridgeport every day. Is anyone at SDE minding the store?

Students have well-founded complaints about Amistad’s discipline practices. While suspensions statewide decreased from 2010 through 2015, they skyrocketed at Amistad, from 302 to 1,307 suspensions. There were more suspensions in 2014-15 than there were students, who numbered 984. During that five-year period, enrollment increased by about 25 percent, while suspensions more than quadrupled.

Other charters granted enrollment expansion waivers on June 1 also have deplorable suspension rates. Bridgeport’s Achievement First had 1,641 suspensions, almost double the number of students, 977, in 2014-15. The number of suspensions more than tripled since 2010-11, when there were 456, and 409 students.

Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport, operating for just one year, had 154 suspensions, outpacing its enrollment of 127 students. Great Oaks received the waiver for the largest increase in seats. Explaining the basis for exceeding the statutory cap, Linabury stated that there was a strict focus on the school’s performance.

Apparently SDE does not consider abusive discipline worth investigating. It should. A recent UCLA report found that nationwide, suspensions lead to dropouts, costing more than $46 billion in lost tax revenue and other social costs.

SDE admitted that, academically, Great Oaks performs well below the state average, and worse than Bridgeport, its host district. Yet SDE still recommended Great Oaks for an increase, which the board rubber-stamped.

Beyond its appalling lack of oversight, SDE made blatant misrepresentations in its quest to expand charters. SDE’s CFO Kathleen Dempsey, declared that before these charters opened, “local approval and support” were required. For Great Oaks and another school granted a statutory increase, Stamford Charter School for Excellence, that statement is false. The public and the local boards of education opposed these charters.

Some state board members feigned dismay that there was ample funding for charter increases while the state slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from vo-tech, magnets and public schools. They then approved the enrollment increases, without any investigation into discipline abuses, uncertified teachers or other misdeeds.

The members declared it would be unfair not to expand enrollment because the charters already held the lotteries for these seats. When asked why the charters held lotteries for seats before they were even approved, SDE again abdicated responsibility, claiming SDE has no say over charter lotteries.

With billions of dollars and student well-being at stake, Connecticut’s children and taxpayers deserve better than officials who sit idly by while charter schools call all the shots.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s original article in the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-void-in-oversight-of-charter-7988759.php

More public money for the 1% – less resources for the rest of Connecticut’s public school students

Comments Off on More public money for the 1% – less resources for the rest of Connecticut’s public school students

Governor Dannel Malloy, with the support of Democratic legislators, has made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  Already inadequately funded, Connecticut’s elected officials are now truly undermining the opportunity for every Connecticut child to get the education the need and deserve.

However, Connecticut’s fiscal crisis isn’t stopping Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education from shoveling even more public funds to the privately owned and operated companies that run Connecticut’s charter schools – entities that refuse to educate their fair share of students with special education requirements or those who need extra help becoming proficient in the English Language (ELL students.)

At yesterday’s State Board of Education meeting (June 1, 2016)), Governor Malloy’s appointees voted to allocate even more funding for charter schools, while pretending their primary responsibility to adequately fund public schools wasn’t being undermined by Malloy’s actions.

In Charter school enrollment set to rise, the CT Mirror reported that the State Board of Education was moving forward with a proposal from Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to allow charter schools to increase enrollment at charter schools next fall, noting;

While the enrollment increase will cost the state an additional $4.1 million next year, funding for traditional public schools is being cut by $51.7 million and for regional magnet schools, opened to help desegregate city schools, by $15.4 million.

In recommending that 14 of Connecticut’s 23 charter schools be allowed to enroll another 401 students, Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell wrote the publicly funded schools had a “demonstrated record of achievement.”

However, Wentzell isn’t telling the truth.  The reality is that many Connecticut charter schools are failing to provide equitable and adequate access to the full array of Connecticut’s public school students and that even after cherry-picking the students they will accept and keep, most charter schools are failing to do an adequate job.

The CT Mirror goes on to report;

One of the schools being recommended for an enrollment boost, however – Achievement First Hartford – was put on probation last month after an audit criticized the school for a high rate of disciplining students and having too few of its teachers properly certified. Achievement First Hartford includes an elementary, middle and high school.

The schools were first identified in 2013 as having some of the highest suspension rates in the state, but enrollment caps have been waived by the state education board for three years so enrollment could grow from 874 to 1,125 students. In a 2013 memo to the state board, the leader of Achievement First outlined plans to revise its “if-in-doubt-send-them-out” suspension policy, to better train teachers on handling disruptive students, and to reduce the offenses students could be suspended for. But data released in April showed the schools still have high suspension rates.

One other school, Jumoke Academy, is currently on probation, and two others were given notice they needed to improve last May.

Jumoke was at the center of a controversy surrounding questionable fiscal practices that were unveiled by The Hartford Courant. The school is in its second year of probation and is the only charter school that is being recommended for decreased enrollment. However, enrollment at Jumoke has increased since it was put on probation, from 705 students during the 2013-14 school year to 765 students next year.

Stamford Academy and New Beginnings in Bridgeport both had their charters renewed last May for shortened terms, and conditions for improvement were imposed. Stamford is being recommended for an enrollment increase and Bridgeport for a flat enrollment.

When Dannel Malloy took office in January 2011, Connecticut taxpayers subsidized charter schools to the tune of about $50 million a year.  This coming year, after becoming one of Malloy’s most important sources of campaign cash, Connecticut taxpayers are giving the private companies that run charter schools more than $125 million.  No other area of the state budget has grown at such an alarming rate.

As noted here at Wait, What? and elsewhere, charter schools have a long and ugly track record of mistreating students, parents and teachers.  Across the country, more and more charter school operators are also being investigated, indicted and/or convicted of fraudulent use of public funds.

One of the more noteworthy controversies surrounding charter schools occurred here in Connecticut when Jumoke Academy came under investigation for misuse of public funds and it was revealed that the company’s CEO didn’t have the academic degree he claimed but was living the high-life in a brownstone purchased and renovated by the charter school company.

Additional Background on Connecticut’s Charter School Scandals can be found via the following Wait, What? posts:

The downfall of another Charter School Management Company

What’s missing from the damning Jumoke/FUSE report – Part 1

FUSE re-lights Connecticut’s Charter School Scandals

Malloy and Pryor:  The Connecticut Charter School Debacle Expands

An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools by Wendy Lecker

Today’s MUST READ PIECE – Where’s the Accountability? Anyone? By Sarah Darer Littman

Columns on the Malloy/Pryor Charter School scandals

Bridgeport’s Former “Deputy Mayor” Josh Thompson running for Mayor of New York City

4 Comments

Although it is undoubtedly purely coincidental, with fans eagerly awaiting the much anticipated release this Friday of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” along comes the news that Joshua Thompson, former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s former aide, who claimed on his on-line biography that he was actually Bridgeport’s “Deputy Mayor,” is now focusing his attention on defeating New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

No, Josh Thompson isn’t working for one of the potential candidates who are considering challenging de Blasio in the November 2017 election.  Mayor Bill Finch’s former aide is running to BECOME New York’s next mayor.

Josh Thompson’s time as a member of Bill Finch’s Brain Trust highlight the recent challenges that have been dragging down Connecticut’s charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies who continue to undermine public education in Connecticut.

As some readers may remember, in March 2013, Wait, What? reported that Joshua Thompson was garnering media attention when he updated his on-line biography to read:

Joshua Thompson is the Director of Education and Youth Policy and the Deputy Mayor for Education for the city of Bridgeport, CT. Prior to this position, he was the Program Analyst and Projects Manager for the Deputy Mayor for Education in the Executive Office of the Mayor in Washington, DC.

In this capacity, he served in a direct oversight role in the District’s schools, working in partnership with charter schools, as well as the federal government on policies such as Race to the Top and other major initiatives that impact the District at large.

But, of course, few of the claims made by the 20-something political operative were true.

At the time Josh Thompson was hired in August 2012 to join Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s staff, the Connecticut Post wrote that the newcomer would be working as Finch’s education aide.  The paper explained,

“Joshua Thompson will develop and carry out public education policy and shape new initiatives. He will earn $102,000 as an at-will employee of the mayor. Funds for the salary were approved by the City Council and come from a dedicated line in the budget, said Adam Wood, Finch’s chief of staff.”

However, neither Mayor Finch nor his Chief of Staff, Adam Wood, bothered to explain to the City Council that the “dedicated line” they were referring to was actually the City’s education budget and their tactic meant money intended for educating Bridgeport’s children would, instead, be used to expand Finch’s political operation.

While Thompson’s official position remained that of a deputy chief administrative officer, the Finch Administration started referring to Thompson as the Mayor’s “Director for Education and Youth.”

Initially, Director of Education and Youth is how Thompson referred to himself on his LinkedIn social networking account, although he bulked up his title a bit more on his  twitter account, calling himself, “Director of Education in Bridgeport, CT.”

But Thompson’s amazing, meteoric, self-promotion was most evident when it came to his biography on The Council of Urban Professionals’ website.  The CUP is a New York City based entity that claims to be, “an energetic 21st century leadership development organization that molds diverse business and civic leaders, and empowers them to exert influence, achieve their individual goals and create collective impact through a range of programs and initiative.”

After Thompson was done doctoring his biography on the site it read;

“Director of Education and Youth Policy and the Deputy Mayor for Education for the city of Bridgeport, CT.”

Of course, the claim was more than a little far-fetched considering Bridgeport City Charter doesn’t even allow the use of the title, Deputy Mayor.  After Thompson’s enhanced biography was published on Wait, What? he modified it to remove his status as the Park City’s self-appointed Deputy Mayor.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeport, Thompson’s first task was to help pass Mayor Finch’s plan to do away with the city’s democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.  The Mayor’s charter referendum initiative went down in a stunning defeat.

Undaunted by the will of the people, Finch then had Thompson take on the role of bullying the Bridgeport Board of Education into extending the contract of education reformer extraordinaire, Paul Vallas, who had arrived in Bridgeport after successfully undermining and the public school systems in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

Thompson’s role as Finch’s education reform enforcer was covered in a number of Wait, What? blog posts, including, Bridgeport: Finch puts Deputy Mayor Thompson in attack mode to protect Paul Vallas…Mayor Finch and Bridgeport City Council move to cut education funding? And  last but not least, in Finch/Vallas land…

Leading the Custer-like effort to defend Vallas, Thompson issued a threatening statement to the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education that appeared in the Only in Bridgeport” blog.  Thompson opined;

“I want to make something 100-percent clear…I am very concerned that we have elected board members whose values are tied to that of the Working Families Party…. With Superintendent Vallas’ evaluation coming up this Monday, it is clear that anyone who is part of the Working Families Party did not objectively evaluate the Superintendent’s performance…”

Finch also gave Thompson the task of helping make sure that only pro-charter school Finch loyalists were elected to the Bridgeport school board, an effort that also ended in failure.

Failure was also the outcome of Finch’s re-election plans, when the incumbent mayor was defeated in November 2015 by former Bridgeport mayor, Joe Ganim, who had returned to Bridgeport after serving seven years in federal prison for corruption.

But by then, Thompson’s dreams of glory had taken him back down the road to New York City.

As Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll noted (purportedly while on drugs);

alice quote

As for his time in Bridgeport, Thompson explains on his new campaign website;

In 2012, as I was finishing up in DC, I received a call that Bridgeport’s education system was in crisis and drove straight there. When I arrived in Bridgeport, there was a $13 million education budget deficit, a dropout rate of nearly 50%, and textbooks that still said George H. W. Bush was president. During my tenure, we eliminated the deficit without letting go of a single teacher or closing a single school. In fact, we opened 9 schools, some of which are now among the highest performing schools in Connecticut. Instead of outdated textbooks, every high school student in Bridgeport now has a tablet….

As an aside, the tablet statement isn’t true and the $10 million no-bid contract to purchase new textbooks not only ended up with “new” books that are not Common Core complaint but the outrageous and lucrative payment schedule ended up diverting scarce dollars from critically needed instructional costs for years after Vallas and Thompson left town.

But none of the uncomfortable details matter to Connecticut’s charter school industry and those associated with the anti-teacher, anti-public school education reform agenda.

Annoyed with New York Mayor de Blasio, the moneyed interests associated with Connecticut’s charter schools are stepping up to help their guy “challenge” New York’s Mayor..

According to Thompson’s first campaign finance report, Bridgeport’s former “Deputy Mayor” raised a total of about $15,000 during his first reporting period.

Thompson’s largest donor, of course, is none-other-than Jonathan Sackler, the multi-millionaire pharmaceutical executive who was also Governor Dannel Malloy’s largest campaign contributor.

Thompson’s other donors include;

Jennifer Alexander (CEO, ConnCAN)

Andrew Boas (Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors)

Adam Goldfarb (Former Chief of Staff to Former CT Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor)

Jeremiah Grace (Director of the NY based charter school front called Families for Excellent Schools)

Alex Johnson (Former CEO, ConnCAN)

Megan Lowney (Co-founder of the charter school advocacy group Excel Bridgeport)

Adam Wood (Former Chief of Staff to Former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch)

And others who names appear regularly here at Wait, What?

It just goes to show you…. Although what exactly is goes to show is a bit of mystery.

Older Entries